Need to grow cricket outside of India – Cricket Australia chief

Australia

Kevin Roberts, the Cricket Australia chief executive, has pledged New Zealand will be granted more frequent Boxing Day Tests as he acknowledged that the game’s financial powerhouses needed to work together to ensure that it grows healthier outside the cricket super economies of India, England and Australia.

Responding to the BCCI president Sourav Ganguly’s suggestion for a “Super Series” in which India, England and Australia would play a tournament amongst themselves, Roberts termed the idea “innovative”. But he was careful to stress that all nations needed to be given opportunities for quality cricket and chances to raise revenue, amid widespread dismay that such a concept might be allowed to get off the ground given the parlous state of so many other nations’ finances.

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) is struggling to find sufficient and consistent revenue streams in the face of three consecutive years of financial losses, while elsewhere Ireland has been forced to cancel a raft of fixtures due to cost pressures. The scheduling of a “Super Series” rather than the extra ICC events proposed by its chief executive Manu Sawhney would not only overturn the current cricket calendar but place further pressure on the already stretched finances of most ICC member countries.

“I think it’s an example of the innovative thinking coming out of the BCCI with Sourav Ganguly as president,” Roberts said. “In his very short time, only a couple of months, we have already seen India commit to and host a day-night Test in Kolkata, so a brilliant result there. And now a suggestion around the Super Series, another potential innovation. We will be in India next month and Bangladesh talking about the future cricket calendar. We’re in discussions with New Zealand as well and I was recently in Pakistan talking about the importance of our future partnership with Pakistan.

“We’re really respectful of the importance of our international cricket relationships and our role as a leader in world cricket in supporting the development of cricket in other countries. We’re really looking forward to hosting Afghanistan next year and that is an example of our commitment to world cricket. We have discussions with all member nations of the ICC and take really seriously our role to partner them and working together with them to grow the game.

“We’re just trying to be a good proactive partner to both the ICC and its members. Cricket is part of the fabric of Australian culture and we’ve got to play our part to make sure it remains and become an even stronger part of other countries around the world. Cricket is more or less a religion on the sub-continent. It’s absolutely the favourite sport in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. We’ve got to try and make sure we see the game emerging in countries all around the world.”

Tony Irish, the FICA executive chairman, has stated bluntly that any push for more bilateral cricket than is already scheduled between India, England and Australia would only serve to grow the yawning gaps that exist between rich and poor. “The mooted super series is a real concern for the global game. It is likely to further open the gap between the rich and the poorer countries in international cricket,” Irish told ESPNcricinfo.

“FICA has maintained for some time now that two key issues to be addressed for the future of international cricket are a) a more coherent global schedule, and b) more equitable global game economics. This proposed new event does not assist in either of those.”

Asked whether New Zealand would have to wait another 32 years for another appearance on Boxing Day, Roberts was quick to assure Australia’s Trans-Tasman neighbours that a crowd of more than 80,000 of Boxing Day at the MCG would help ensure that the fixture would become a far more regular occurrence. He also stated that the MCG would keep the Boxing Day Test for the foreseeable future, as CA negotiates a new stadium deal with the Melbourne Cricket Club.

“We really value the partnership with New Zealand. We are already having some high-level discussions around the cricket calendar from 2023 to 2031 and we absolutely hope and look forward to hosting New Zealand at a Boxing Day Test well before another 32 years pass,” Roberts said. “They are a really important partner and nation in the world of cricket.

“The reality is there is only one venue in Australia that can host over 80,000 people on Boxing Day as the MCG did yesterday. It was just a picture. That’s something we are really grateful for and respect. The MCG Test is one of the two most iconic Tests on the planet, along with the Lord’s Test.

“You would have to say that, given this is the equivalent of two AFL grand finals, as MCC CEO Stuart Fox was quoted as saying that the other day, that indicates the importance of it, not just in Victoria but in communities beyond Australia. Given the importance of the MCG Test to world cricket, I would like to think it will remain here in perpetuity. There is a bit of work to be done on that front. But you would have to say it is best for world cricket to have a Boxing Day Test in Melbourne for years to come.”

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